Thabeet was taken second overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Second Overall NBA Draft Pick Scores Eight Points for Dakota Wizards
By John Archibald, Resolution Sports
Bismarck, N.D. (Saturday, February 27, 2010) – Center Hasheem Thabeet, the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft to the Memphis Grizzlies, made his debut last night for the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League, scoring eight points and pulling down a pair of rebounds in a 108-103 win over the Erie BayHawks. The assignment of the former UConn standout to the D-League is one that has given his short professional career a bit of a black eye, but those throwing unwarranted jokes in the direction of Thabeet are completely missing the mark.
"No matter what level you're at, there's nothing that beats actual playing," Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace said of the decision to send Thabeet to the D-League. "You can practice all you want, lift weights, watch film, but you've got to get on the court in game situations. Then you have to take what you've been taught now and apply it. That's what the D-League provides us."
Obviously, this is not the ideal situation for the Grizzlies, Wallace or Thabeet. No one went into the 2009 NBA Draft with the expectation of having a second overall pick sent down to the minor league affiliate of the NBA, but isn’t a situation like this exactly why minor leagues exist? Stephen Strasburg, who was the first player taken in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft, is the most hyped baseball prospect since Ken Griffey Jr., and no one expects the young phenom to even be on the opening day roster for the Washington Nationals this spring. Even Griffey Jr. spent two seasons in the minor leagues before he was called up by the Seattle Mariners in 1989.
The point here is that minor leagues exist for a reason. When the D-League launched in 2001, it was created to serve as a long-needed minor league for the best basketball league in the world. Is it so bad that Wallace and the Grizzlies decided to use what was available to them so they could attempt to develop a huge investment that they made? I’m sure that the Detroit Pistons wish they had used this option before Darko Milicic drained millions from their bank account while sitting as far away from the scorer’s table as possible. Maybe Michael Jordan would still be in DC had center Kwame Brown polished his game in the minor leagues.
I’m not saying that a trip to the D-League is the best career boost in the short-term, but that valuable playing time is something that could make a second overall pick like Thabeet turn out to be an intelligent decision in the long-term. Right now, it’s easy to say Thabeet is a bust because he was sent down to the D-League, but I applaud the move by Wallace and the Grizzlies to give the young hybrid the opportunity to grow and prove he belongs.
Call me crazy, but taking advantage of what is available to you and giving a huge investment an opportunity to develop his game is a smart move. I just hope other NBA teams see that it’s not so taboo to utilize the D-League and begin to use their minor league affiliate clubs. Not only would it create more success stories in the NBA, it would make the D-League itself a greater success story.